18 Jan 2015

Reginald Ernest Swinfield

On 11th January 2015, family and friends gathered in the West Abbey Care Centre in Yeovil, Somerset, to celebrate the life and 90th birthday of Reg Swinfield, my father. 

Born at Bagshot, Surrey, he was the only child of Arthur Swinfield (1883-1956) and Edith Elizabeth nee Worsfold (1884-1976), born 11 years after their marriage. In his early years, he suffered from ill health having measles, whooping cough and double pneumonia in quick succession, leaving him needing to be in a pushchair until he was five years old! His father was then working as a butler at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.

In April 1930, Reg started his education at Yorktown School. His strength gradually improved and at age of eight, he joined the Frimley and Camberley Cadet Corps and eventually was promoted to be commander of Yorktown Platoon. He won several medals for both physical and athletic achievements. A very keen sportsman throughout his life, he played football and cricket for his junior school and in 1938 was selected to play football for Farnham Schools when they won the Wood Cup, the Surrey Schools Competition for under 12s.

Having not been successful in the examination at 11 to attend the local grammar school, he passed the 13+ examination to attend Guildford Junior Technical School from 1938 to 1940. In his first term, he played football for Guildford Schools who won the Hood Shield for all Surrey Schools in March 1939.
Leaving school in May 1940, he became an engineering apprentice at the world-renowned Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, Hampshire, where he trained until 1946, obtaining his Ordinary and Higher National Certificates. At the age of 17, in Jan 1942, he joined the Home Guard during WWII and served alongside his father until it was disbanded in 1944.
In August 1946, Reg joined Fairey Aviation Company at Hayes in Middlesex as a junior stressman, commuting four hours by train and bus each day, for the princely weekly wage of £5-19-6d. He worked on the Firefly Mk5 for six months and was then transferred to the team involved in the design of the new Gannet anti-submarine aircraft. 
During the football season 1947/8, he captained the Camberley Reserves when they won the Surrey Senior Reserve Section Challenge Cup.
On New Years Eve 1947, at a dance in Camberley, he met Evelyn May Bird (1924-2008). They became engaged on Evelyn’s 24th birthday and were married in St Peter’s Church, Frimley, Surrey, on 16th July 1949. Geoffrey Mark, their only child, was born on 2nd October 1951.
In his lifelong career, he was promoted to Assistant Chief Stressman and was made a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and a Chartered Engineer. When Fairey Aviation was taken over by Westland Helicopters in 1960, the Rotodyne project was cancelled and he was transferred to the Scout and Wasp helicopters. By 1966, he was promoted to Deputy Chief Structural Engineer and spent some time at Cowes on the Isle of Wight developing the SRN4 hovercraft and later the Lynx helicopter.
From 1950 to 1972, he was a stalwart all-rounder for Bagshot Cricket Club, captaining the First XI for many seasons, scoring thousands of runs and taking well over 1000 wickets. Also a keen golfer, at one time playing to a handicap of 14, he was still playing in his early 80s.
Evelyn and Reg moved to Sherborne in Dorset in August 1972 with the closure of the Hayes factory by Westland and its transfer to Yeovil. Appointed its Chief Structural Designer and later the Chief Structural Engineer, he finally retired in May 1986 after 26 years with that company. In early 1987, they embarked on an eight-week round-the-world tour with their friends, David and Madge Hollely, visiting Honolulu, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand and Hong Kong.
They have three grandchildren, Thomas William born in 1984, Benjamin Alan 1985 and Samuel John in 1988. His great-granddaughter, Lexia Lou, was born in September 2013.

17 Jan 2015

John William Swinfield (1922-2014)

On 10th November 2014, one of our most senior Swinfields passed away at the age of 92. 

John William Swinfield was born on 23rd July 1922. A native and lifelong resident of Sydney, New South Wales, he was the son of a builder, John Andrew Swinfield (1897-1964) and Jessie Isabella nee Mitchell (1893/4-1971) who married in the Granville area of the city in 1918. As such, John William was the great-great-grandson of William Swinfield (1804-1876), the tailor who left Hartshill, Warwickshire in England for Australia in 1848 with his second wife Sarah (Williamson) and their family of four children. Those included his 10 year-old son, John, who was to become John William's great-grandfather.

Attending Enfield Primary School and Belmore Technical College, he left formal education when he was just over 14, during the depression of late 1936, to try to find a job. He first delivered milk, making two runs a day for 12s-6d per week! Later he became a delivery boy for a grocer's shop at Hill Street in Leichhardt before gaining employment with the firm of Brico at Camperdown, which made piston ring and cylinder liners. By 1939, he was with Amalgamated Wireless in Ashfield as a fitter and turner in its machine shop.

During WWII, he served as a fitter and engineer with the Royal Australian Air Force, posted to Coomalia Creek Airstrip in Northern Territory (which was bombed three times!) and then in Northern Queensland. 

After the War, John sailed as second engineer on a trading vessel to Papua New Guinea where he lived for a couple of years. Returning to NSW in 1947, he found his first long-term position from 1950 to 1970 with Michael Nain & Co, makers of floor coverings at Auburn. Shortly afterwards in 1954, he married Joan Patricia (Boyne) and they had four children, John Andrew in 1957, Helen Jessica 1959, Pamela May in 1960 and Linda Jane 1963.

For the last ten years of his working life, he was a purchasing officer for the NSW Returned and Services League (RSL), of which he was an active member and President of its Burwood Club for 15 years. He took early retirement at 58 in 1980.

John William Swinfield became an expert on antique firearms and co-authored Australian Antique Arms & History published in 2009. He was President of the Antique Arms Collectors Society of Australia for many years.

It was pleasure to have him with us at the Swinfield Gathering held at Ryde in Sydney in May 2014, just six months before his death. He was there with all four of his children and four of his six grandchildren.